A recent report by Sophia Forum and Terence Higgins Trust claims that women make up one third of people living with HIV in the UK, and yet are almost invisible in the narrative about HIV. The research indicates that there has been a disproportionate focus on gay men in the national response to HIV, with one stakeholder saying that the sector has "taken its eye off the ball" in relation to women facing the disease.
The report is titled ‘"Invisible No Longer" and it strives to raise awareness and tackle this problem head-on. The study has found that 45 percent of women with HIV live below the poverty line and 42% of women have had a mental health diagnosis since being diagnosed with HIV. Not paying proper attention to the situation of women with HIV makes it harder to combat these issues.
Particularly troubling are the findings relating to HIV-related violence, as the report claims that over half of women living with HIV in the UK have experienced violence because of their HIV status. Almost one third have avoided or delayed attending healthcare in the past year due to fear of discrimination.
With women overshadowed in the national narrative, these problems are able to grow unchecked. The report says, “The link between HIV, gender, and violence is recognised globally, but has been under-addressed in the UK.”
In the national narrative relating to the disease, women are by default assumed to be heterosexual and the diversity of female sexualities is ignored. The project wants to stop women from being treated as a homogenised group; and aims to expose the gaps in research and treatment for women with HIV so that support services properly fit their needs.
Empowering women to not only survive, but thrive with HIV is a vital part of the entire struggle against the disease.